For the past 12 days I was on the road doing a nice blend of conference presentations and workshops as well as some school-based professional development.  The two conferences were lovely experiences as I was able to share best practices, take apart this curriculum maze we are all trying to navigate with technology and learn with some really dynamic and thoughtful educators.

The final two days of the stretch were spent with the San Marcos Unified School District in California.  Adina Sullivan and Brian Frost are working with a large cohort to launch a new endeavor to go 1:1 in a ton of classrooms this year, while working on using an inquiry-based framework for shifting the teaching and learning.  On Thursday, I met with the middle and high school teachers and on Friday I met with the elementary teachers (special shout to Anthony Barela, one of the Elementary principals who I had the pleasure to meet at ISTE this year, for all the obvious support and energy he gives his staff and school).

After spending eight hours over the two days with these teachers, it became apparent that what was happening is that they are getting it right.  Now, I am not privy to the specifics and I know there have been challenges and hiccups along the way.  At the base level, though, this is an endeavor that brings an initiative for technology on board while also focusing on how one can teach and learn differently with the new tools and expanded access to information.  We spent the first half of each day discussing how the teaching and learning was progressing.  Teachers were openly sharing their successes, stresses, strategies and work arounds.  But most of all they were in engaged in meaningful dialogue about teaching and learning using a shared protocol for lesson planning and discussion.  From my vantage point they:

  • Established a pedagogical framework for teaching and learning that was to be used in the initiative
  • Provided release time, extra support and feedback throughout the process
  • Disseminated the resources/gadgets/’the shiny’ to the teachers
  • Continue to revisit, share and reflect frequently.

While this should not be something unique, new initiatives are increasingly bungled in many districts due to trying to do more with less, change on the cheap.  SMUSD is just doing more, smartly.  Thoughtfulness and planning went into this structure and not everyone gets this right.  Kudos to all of the hard work and transformation that they are cultivating.  Am excited to see where the future of this initiative leads.